2013 Salsa Vaya 3 – 1000 Mile Review

Loaded Bike

2013 Salsa Vaya 3 – 1000 Mile Review

Johnny & Vaya

Johnny’s first tour with the Salsa Vaya.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve put 1,000 miles on my 2013 Salsa Vaya 3 in a little over 6 months.  I picked this bike up on July 3rd at Topanga Creek Bicycles shop in Topanga.  One of the only bicycle shops that specializes in touring bikes as well as mountain bikes.  My initial intent was to buy a Surly Long Haul Trucker (LHT) but the pretty ruby-red shine of the Salsa caught my eye when Ryan pointed out that they had one available in my size.  Unfortunately for me, they also had the LHT available in my size, too.

Decisions, Decisions

At that moment, it was a difficult decision as I had my heart set on picking up a LHT, but then I remember reading from The Path Less Pedaled about how they love their Vayas and remembered their own favorable 1,000 mile review.  I stood in the showroom for about 10 minutes debating the finer points of owning something I came for or something that was love at first sight.  The only way was to take the Vaya out for a test ride as I’ve already ridden Sang’s LHT and knew what to expect with that bike.

Day 1

Salsa Vaya 3 getting racks

Smiles All Around

I took down the side road which let me cruise around the quiet local residential neighborhood in Topanga Canyon.  The bar end shifters took a little getting use to, but I have since mastered them.  What was impressive was the tremendous braking power of this bike.  This would be the first and only bike I’ve ever ridden with disc brakes.  I actually didn’t want a bike with disc brakes because I had never had any experience working on a bike with them, but after the test ride (or test stop) this completely changed my mind.  I rode back to the shop and asked them to put a Tubus Logo Classic rear rack and Salsa Down Under front rack on this beauty and paid for my brand new steed.

Paving My Path

For the next 6 months, the bike joined me on 2 bicycle tours: one to Lake Cachuma and another recently to Point Mugu.  I had loaded it up with rear Ortlieb panniers for the first trip and both rear and front panniers for the last trip.  The bike handled like a champ!  I probably loaded about 30 to 40 lbs of gear, but the handling was fantastic.  Even with heavy front panniers, I was able to maneuver the Vaya easily.  I just needed to make sure I had to plan the turn ahead of time because the weight made reaction time slower.  I suppose that’s normal for any touring bike.  The front rack was low enough so that wiggle was negligible.

Salsa on the Beach

Johnny’s Salsa Vaya on the Point Mugu State Beach 12/25/13.

This bike became my best friend on my commute into work.  The fat 26” x 1.75” tires ate up the road bumps better than any of the bikes I’ve owned (except maybe my Xtracycle which also had beefier tires as well).  It was a very comfortable all-day bike to ride in.  Even after being on the saddle for 8+ hours I always felt I could have ridden more without feeling worse.  The only negative part is that my shoulder and neck cramp up, but I think it’s just because of how the stem is angled higher than the stock one.  I forgot to mention that I changed that out as well.

Favorite Features

The seat is surprisingly comfortable.  Initially, I was thinking about swapping that out with a Brooks B-17 honey colored saddle, but after riding with the stock Velo Salsa saddle, I’ve found that it has been remarkably comfortable.  I think I’m going to keep that on there for now.

Vaya on top

Salsa Vaya on top of the Verdugos

The handlebar is also one of my favorite things.  You can actually buy this as a separate item from Salsa.  I believe the handlebar is called the Cowbell 3.  What makes it different is that the drop bars flares out on the side.  This makes a very comfortable position when I am down on my drops screaming down a descent.

Aesthetics isn’t priority, but the color scheme on this bike is fantastic.  There’s nothing out there with the great combination of red and gold.  There’s a high-quality finish to it that I’m growing fond of every time I look at my Vaya.

Loaded Bike

Stopped at Summerland

Love and Hate

For me, this is a near perfect bicycle, but one improvement that would make it better is changing out the disc brake system to something that doesn’t squeal so much.  I don’t like that sound coming from my car, so I most certainly do not like it coming from this bike.  I also notice some vibration when there’s slight moisture on the brake disc.  Another annoying thing is that there would be mysterious clicking sounds whenever I hit a bump on the road.  This was easily remedied by quickly squeezing the brakes and letting go.  Don’t get me wrong, having disc brakes has been great during my descent on Refugio Road during our Lake Cachuma trip.  I am certainly a convert, but this system can be improved.

Maiden Ride

First ride on the Salsa Vaya.

Rare Bird

The Salsa Vaya is very rare here in Southern California.  Besides Russ and Laura’s 2 Vayas of the Path Less Pedaled, I have not run into anybody else riding a Vaya.  Most people default to a Surly LHT.  I would have been one of them until, the Vaya caught my eye, and I am glad that it did.  I hope to continue to ride this bike for a while and hopefully, it will take me to all the places I want to go to and then some.  I’ll have another review when I reach the 5,000 mile goal!  Until then, continue to read about my adventures and see what we experience on the way to 5,000.

12/18/14: Read the 2013 Salsa Vaya 2013 – 5000 Mile Review now!

11/17/16: Here’s the 2013 Salsa Vaya – 10,000 Mile Review.

Laura, Johnny, & Russ

3 Vayas and their owners

No Comments
  • Lora
    Posted at 17:18h, 16 January

    People always say that in relationships, the heart knows what the heart wants. I guess that applies to bikes too! 🙂 I’m glad you went with your gut instinct. Congrats!

    • Johnny
      Posted at 18:01h, 16 January

      Thanks Lora! Your comments are right on par to my underlying message. I guess I never thought that I went with my heart when I picked up the Salsa Vaya. Thanks for breaking it down.

  • Todd Shank
    Posted at 08:54h, 17 January

    nice Salsa…I love the Cowbells!

    • Johnny
      Posted at 09:22h, 17 January

      Thanks Todd! I’m quite fond of it too. They put you in a comfortable riding position, unlike the drops on a road bike.

  • Chris
    Posted at 09:12h, 17 January

    RE: disc brake noise, the BB7s are like that. I would really recommend checking out the new Hayes CX-5 (now also being sold as CX-Expert). The BB7s stop you fine, but I hate the feel at the lever (mushy, poor modulation) and the noise is inescapable. The Hayes have a much firmer feel and are significantly quieter in my experience.

    • Johnny
      Posted at 09:25h, 17 January

      Chris, thanks for the Hayes CX-5 recommendation. I’m going to take a look and see if I can get this switched out. Being new to disc brakes, your feedback has been helpful. Thanks!

    • Kevin Lane
      Posted at 13:20h, 24 July

      As to the squeaky discs. I found a small amount of No.2 HD pencil graphite solved this selfsame problem on both my Honda & Harley MC’s. I realize it sounds bizarro, but try grinding up some pencil lead (very finely). Use a dry cotton ball to dab very small amounts on to the disc surface. Absent weight, put the wheel through several revolutions, then apply the brake. This resolved my problem. I suspect the chemical interaction of graphite and the brake-pad, with the temperature increase of a brake sequence solves the problem. I am about to purchase a Vaya, and presume I will encounter this minor issue. If so, I will let you know the outcome.

      • Johnny Lam
        Posted at 16:43h, 24 July

        @Kevin – Thanks for the lead tip. Yes, please let us know if your fix works on the new Vaya you’re about to buy. I’m riding it down the Pacific Coast right now and have close to another 2000 miles on it.

  • boyonabike
    Posted at 10:01h, 17 January

    I’ve got a Salsa Fargo outfitted with schwalbe road tires, as well as an LHT, and the Salsa is my favorite ride. I agree with you about the BB7s. Mine do the same thing you describe. I’ve found that if I use a little fine-grit sandpaper on the disks every so often, and keep them well-adjusted, it seems to lessen the brake noise. It’s kind of a pain, though. I’ve been thinking about swapping my BB7s for some different disk brakes, but I am unsure which ones to get. If you decide to swap yours for the Hayes’s, please write a review and let us know how they work.

    • Johnny
      Posted at 11:46h, 17 January

      boyonbike, when I upgrade my brakes I will definitely write a review about. Thank you for the sand paper tip and comment. Are you familiar with how to adjust these brakes? Again, these are my first disc brakes so I don’t have a clue how to start. Perhaps some YouTube research may help but if you have another place to read or view, let me know!

      • boyonabike
        Posted at 16:19h, 18 January

        Yes, if you google “adjust avid BB7 disc brakes” there are several good youtube tutorials to choose from. It’s not too difficult once you get the hang of it.

        • Johnny
          Posted at 20:07h, 18 January

          boyonabike, thanks again for the tip. I’ll give that a try!

  • Chris
    Posted at 10:30h, 17 January

    Great review, thanks. I recently purchased a 2012 Fargo 3 that the LBS still had on hand. I don’t have many miles on it yet, but I love it. What a solid feel. The LBS told me that a popular disc brake upgrade for my bike is the TRP HY/RD (https://www.trpbrakes.com/category.php?productid=1198&catid=206). I’ll see how things go before deciding whether to do that.

    • Johnny
      Posted at 11:50h, 17 January

      Chris, if or when you upgrade, let me know how it works out. It seems that the BB7s are not the most favorable disc brakes on these Salsa bikes. I guess that’s why they have different versions of the same model so you can shell out more for better components. Either way, they’ve served as a good introductions to the benefits of disc brakes. I’ll be looking for a better option in the future now that I know. Thanks again for your comment.

  • Andy M
    Posted at 01:34h, 18 January

    Your squeaky brakes could be due to contaminated pads, try using new organic non sintered pads. They don’t last as long but are quieter.

    • Johnny
      Posted at 20:06h, 18 January

      Andy, thanks for the pad suggestion. I’ll take a look at my LBS and see if they have something similar.

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  • Ira Mckenzie
    Posted at 22:43h, 25 April

    I also have the same bike! An awesome ride! I was also an LHT hopeful, but was blown away by the comfort of the vaya 3. At first I thought, barcons…no!!! not anymore! I commute to work 22 miles a day (and tour around/groceries) 5 days a week and have put a few thousand on my Salsa. I have the same setup although I have Bontrager racks (just what was cheap and there, would have gone salsa). I have noticed that my brakes squeal as well, although it is no bother to me, lets me know that I am coming to a stop on an amazingly comfortable machine. If or when you “upgrade” the brakes, think about if it is worth the money to tamper with a bike you love for the inconvenience of a little squeal at a stop light. The bike will stop either way, loud or quiet. Happy travels.

    • Johnny Lam
      Posted at 17:59h, 27 April


      I’m glad you like your Salsa Vaya 3. The more miles I put on this ride, the better. The squeal doesn’t seem all too bad at all any more. I’ve ridden with Salsa Fargos that squeal just as loud so I’m not the only noisy bike when braking. This is all up in the air at the moment as I don’t have more disposable income to spare. Thank you for your comments and thanks for reading.


  • Mia Ortizo Castromayor
    Posted at 02:16h, 24 May

    Got the same bike… I originally plan to buy the vaya 2 but when i see the color of the vaya 3 i fell in love with it and decided to pick it up instead… Now i just have to put some miles on it…

    • Johnny Lam
      Posted at 18:07h, 25 May

      Hi Mia,

      I am glad you decided to get this bike. So far I’ve put on over 2500 miles so far and it’s still working beautifully. Easily my most favorite bike I’ve ever owned. I wish you have as many more miles and happy trails with this bike like I have.

      Take care,

      • Mia Ortizo Castromayor
        Posted at 00:06h, 26 May

        i surely will. But since I’m just starting to get familiar with this bike touring thing still kinda hesitant to do long distances. What 2-3 days bike trip can you recommend within southern california area. This would really be helpful to get myself familiarize with bike touring. Any input you may have will be greatly appreciated. Thanks again

        • Johnny Lam
          Posted at 23:02h, 31 May

          Hi Mia,

          I would certainly recommend checking out Ojai by train and bike. It’s a short 20 mile trip one way. You can also try Leo Carillo State Beach which is a good place to ride to from Los Angeles. Let me know if you have further questions. I would love to help you plan.


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